Supporting parents + babies since 1974
BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre is home to Canada’s longest running Milk Bank, having operated continuously since 1974. The Provincial Milk Bank is also a founding member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
The Milk Bank continues to be a leader in care, healing, and support of women and their newborns. Most of the milk is given to sick or very tiny babies at BC Women’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and NICUs throughout the province:
Human milk is the ideal nutrition, a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat that every baby needs to grow. And it contains antibodies that help a baby fight off viral and bacterial infections.
Premature babies have immature gastrointestinal tracts, which can cause difficulties with digestion and absorption of nutrients; they need a food that’s easy for their delicate guts – human milk. Fragile infants are 1,000% more likely to develop devastating intestinal infections if they are fed formula. The great news is that human milk naturally matures and repairs intestinal tissues and vastly reduces the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition that often requires emergency surgery, by up to 75%.
Sometimes it takes so little milk – premature babies may take as little as one or two ounces a feeding – but even that is enough to provide the health benefits. That’s why donor milk is so valuable when a mother cannot provide her own breast milk.
When a newborn arrives prematurely or faces early health complications, some of the best “medicine” comes in the form of mother’s milk. In fact, without human milk, many newborns are at much higher risk for devastating infections. But not every parent is able to breastfeed their newborn. Life-saving help comes in the form of donor milk.